Black Cloud Over the NHL 9/07/11

Wade Belak, who hanged himself according to a person familiar with the case, was found dead Wednesday at a downtown luxury hotel and condo building in Toronto. He was 35. Rick Rypien, who battled depression, was found dead at his home in Alberta earlier this month. He was 27. Derek Boogaard’s death in May was ruled an accidental overdose of an alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone. He was 28.

3 NHL enforcers, all dead in a very short period of time. I believe this is just a strange coincidence, to be honest. It is odd, 3 of them die so close together, but I find it nothing more than just a tragedy.

Now the horrible news today brought….

MOSCOW – A Russian jet carrying members of a local hockey team crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing 43 people, including several former NHL players.

The Yak-42 crashed immediately after leaving an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles northeast of Moscow. The weather was sunny and clear at the time.

Rescuers seen at the crash site of Russian Yak-42 jet near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles northeast of Moscow.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the plane was carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately sent the nation’s transport minister to the site, 10 miles east of Yaroslavl.

A Lokomotiv official reportedly told Sovetsky Sport that all the players from the team’s main roster were aboard the plane. The roster includes former NHL stars Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek and Ruslan Salei, reported Newscore.

Demitra, 36, an 11-time 20-goal scorer from Slovakia and played 13 years in the NHL, scoring 304 goals. Alexander Vasyunov, who played 18 NHL games last season with the New Jersey Devils, was also on the team, according to Newscore.

A Czech embassy official said Czech players Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek were among those killed, and Latvian officials confirmed the death of Latvian defenseman Karlis Skrastins.

“This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from 10 nations,” said Rene Fasel, president of the international Ice Hockey Federation. “This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community.”

Officials said player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crewmember.

“We will do our best to ensure that hockey in Yaroslavl does not die, and that it continues to live for the people that were on that plane,” said Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak.

The short- and medium-range Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 and dozens are still in service with Russian and other airlines. The plane that crashed was built in 1993 and belonged to a small Moscow-based Yak Service company.

President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year.

In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people. The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.

This is a crushing blow to hockey fans everywhere. To be honest, I’m speechless over these stories.

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